A Second Look: Fun and Fancy Free
In 1947, William Morgan, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, and Jack Kinney released Fun and Fancy Free, another one of Disney’s package films. Starring Edgar Bergen, Luana Patten, Dinah Shore, Cliff Edwards, Walt Disney, Jimmy MacDonald, Clarence Nash, Pinto Colvig, Billy Gilbert and Anita Gordon, the film has an unknown box office gross. The last time Disney would voice Mickey Mouse, the film had multiple video and television releases all edited differently.
Framed by Jiminy Cricket, the film has two shorts. First, Jiminy sets up a record player that tells the story of Bongo, a bear who escapes the circus and lives in the forest. Following the end of the story, Jiminy invites himself to a birthday party where Edgar Bergen is entertaining Luana Patten with his ventriloquist dummies, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. Bergen then narrates Mickey and the Beanstalk.
Fun and Fancy Free seems to be a bit of an oddity as the package films go. While the two shorts that comprise it are really good, the frame story that surrounds them feels quite contrived. The inclusion of Jiminy Cricket also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, seeing as he’s just in some random place and happens to stumble across a doll, teddy bear and record player. It just furthers the feeling that the segments are being forced upon the audience. Same with the second segment as Jiminy just happens to find an invitation to Luane’s birthday party and thinks that inviting himself is a good idea. The frame story doesn’t really add anything to the overall film and really should have been left out. After all, the film prior didn’t have a story to frame all its segments, which worked really well. The failure of Jiminy and his frame story only serve to demonstrate that if a package film is going to have a frame, it needs to make sense, like the segments in The Three Caballeros centering on how it’s Donald’s birthday or how the segments in Saludos Amigos are all framed around the Disney South American goodwill tour. Granted the former really shouldn’t have existed as the shorts weighed down the film’s frame. Jiminy doesn’t even have any major effect on the second plot, seeing as it would have happened without him crashing the party in the first place.
But the shorts are enjoyable. Take “Bongo.” His inclination to escape the circus makes sense as he is mistreated off stage and believes the grass to be much greener. And this time it actually is, seeing as he found a love he could eventually fight for. His reaction to being slapped by Lulubelle also makes perfect sense as he was raised in captivity away from any other bears and has no idea how bears show their affection. All he knows is how people do so and it usually doesn’t involve slapping. There’s some brilliant foreshadowing about that as well, as Dinah Shore says early in the sequence that Bongo doesn’t even know how to act like a bear. That lack of knowledge is made clear by his confusion and heartbreak following Lulubelle’s slaps. However, he does seem to be a quick learner and finds something to fight for when Lulubelle accidentally slaps Lumpjaw, who decides to take her. As a whole, the Bongo story is a fun tale of yearning for the unknown, love, loss and understanding.
Then there’s “Mickey and the Beanstalk,” which is a rather enjoyable retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” And while the frame story with Jiminy didn’t make a whole lot of sense, Bergen’s telling of the story makes for some humorous moments when he’s interrupted by the ventriloquist dummies. And Charlie’s constant sarcasm, which ranges from Bergen’s ability to tell a story to connecting said story to Roosevelt’s New Deal, makes it a lot more fun than just a straight retelling. The interpretation of the Giant, given the name Willie here, is also interesting, seeing as he could pass for a several stories tall human being. But he’s also a shape shifting magician who really isn’t very bright. But where he lacks in smarts, he still can’t be tricked, seen when he decides to turn into a bunny instead of a fly and catches on to what Mickey, Donald and Goofy want to do. Yet, with all the fun in the story, there’s still some wild mood swings in tone, especially when Bergen is explaining how the peasant’s plights are gloomy coupled with Donald going on a hunger-induced nervous breakdown, which is funny, yet tragic at the same time.
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